wears the trousers magazine


lady gaga: the fame monster (2009)
November 23, 2009, 9:05 am
Filed under: album, review | Tags: ,

Lady Gaga
The Fame Monster ••••½
Polydor

With such a secure and almost instant grip on pop music culture, it’s hard to believe that it was just over a year ago that the world at large got its first taste of Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, slightly better known by her alias Lady Gaga. Critics and music lovers alike have been sent into a spin over whether Lady G of The Haus Of Gaga is to be despised, tolerated or worshipped, and even whether she is in fact a he (a debate which can be traced back to a certain YouTube clip involving a motorcyle and a low cut dress); everyone has an opinion to share. Thankfully what we have here is more than just a case of another singing clotheshorse: Gaga’s debut album The Fame has sold by the bucketload, and her singles, videos and public image have thoroughly savaged pop music like a pitbull in a fright wig wearing 12” Alexander McQueen heels.

Most pop artists would be content to ride the wave created by such a successful first album, almost certainly stooping to a re-release with bonus tracks. And while that was certainly an idea that Gaga toyed with, what she decided on was a standalone EP of all new material entitled The Fame Monster. (There are in fact two versions, the other packaged alongside the debut, which is quite a lot of fame for even the hungriest pop consumer.) In recent interviews, Gaga has revealed that The Fame Monster deals with the darker side of celebrity, describing it rather audaciously as “the first ever pop electro opera”, a boast that is not far off the mark, however questionable its originality. Adding considerable weight to her bravado, the EP kicks off with a late contender for one of the best singles of the decade, the thumping Eastern Bloc epic ‘Bad Romance’.

Setting The Fame Monster benchmark for totally ridiculous lyrics that do away with any sense of conventional grammar, and with the already infamous hook built around a chant of “Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah-ah! Roma-roma-mamaa!”, ‘Bad Romance’ will certainly be huge but it is not by any means the only hit here. ‘Alejandro’ sounds like Ace Of Base covering Britney: on paper a pretty unsavoury prospect, yet despite the somewhat sickly sense of early ’90s Euromanticism, Gaga somehow preserves her cool. ‘Monster’ is a rather barmy stomper regarding a love affair that ends with “We French kissed on a subway train / he ate my heart and then he ate my brain”. Lines of this ilk are rarely heard this side of Duran Duran, but Gaga makes it work by making no attempt to convince us that she is serious. Neither does she ram home the message that this is fluffy fun. She leaves it up to us, a generosity that’s remarkably rare in an age where pop music is so desperate to be taken seriously or falling over itself to show us the clown behind the mask.

Completely lacking in any such subtlety, ‘So Happy I Could Die’ is an immensely catchy ode to female masturbation, while ‘Teeth’ stomps along like the Scissor Sisters on a night out with a crack-addled Christina Aguilera. ‘Dance In The Dark’ is an ’80s-tinged slice of power-pop that strangely resembles Depeche Mode working with Stock, Aitken & Waterman, a mixture that results in a gloriously hands-aloft anthem with an updated ‘Vogue’-style rap that namechecks such cult figures as Lady Di and Jesus. More surprising is ‘Speechless’, which swings in like Ziggy Stardust and is a powerful anthem that shows off Gaga’s voice and an ability to step aside from producer RedOne’s calling card of synth effects. So confident in her abilities, Gaga then does the unthinkable and invites Beyoncé to guest on ‘Telephone’, which, predictably, sounds huge, as if Destiny’s Child had taken their empowerment in a more synthy direction. Gaga’s thinner, bouncier tones and Beyoncé’s immense she-wail complement each other in a surprisingly natural manner.

Focusing on the EP format has seen that any fillers have been driven out. Every track here is remarkably well constructed, albeit often from so many pieces of other songs that it might as well have been called ‘The Fame Magpie’. These disparate elements have been carefully selected and stitched together in a manner that’s impressive and precise, yet slightly haphazard and off-kilter, often provoking the response “This should not work!” As Gaga proves time and again, however, it works rather well. As illusions go, hers is not an easy one to achieve. The idea of a popstar not being the best dancer or singer and not being stunningly attractive would normally be enough to ensure a short career, but Gaga is among the few that defy conventional objectifying, already recalling the career of a certain Madonna Louise Ciccone.

Some may argue that the comparisons between Lady Gaga and Madonna are too rash, symptomatic of the need to classify and pigeonhole female pop artists as the latest off the Britney or Madonna production line. In this case though, the similarities are clear: the shameless commercialism, the reliance on a talented entourage, the embracing of fashion as an art form, and the ability to hoover up endless hooks and riffs from pop classics and regurgitate them into something worth dancing to. But Gaga is perhaps most similar to Madge in that she divides opinions and creates curiosity from those who would not normally care or pay attention to contemporary pop music. That Gaga has the musical ability to bolster the outward sensationalism and has put forth an album better than The Fame, is merely a bonus. Ruthlessly aimed at those that like their music upbeat, contemporary and totally audacious, The Fame Monster is one of the best pop albums in recent memory and utterly unapologetic about it.

Chris Catchpole
UK release date: 23/11/09; www.myspace.com/ladygaga


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2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Ace Of Base track is brilliant, its really like them but in a 2009 manner Im liking it!

Comment by Basser

[…] What we said then: “Every track here is remarkably well constructed, albeit often from so many pieces of other songs that it might as well have been called ‘The Fame Magpie’. These disparate elements have been carefully selected and stitched together in a manner that’s impressive and precise, yet slightly haphazard and off-kilter, often provoking the response “This should not work!” As Gaga proves time and again, however, it works rather well.” ••••½ Chris Catchpole […]

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